Canadian Songwriters Pen Bluegrass Songs

The following article was published in the November 2009 Issue of Country Music News
P.O. Box 7323, Ottawa, ON K1L 8E4. Ph: 613-745-6006.
Research and compilation by Larry Delaney,
Publisher and Editor of the monthly magazine.

A CMT SPECIAL FEATURE - Researched and compiled by Larry Delaney

Canadian-born songwriters are renowned internationally for penning some of the most popular songs recorded by Nashville artists. In fact, CMN annually (January issue) publishes a listing of songs recorded during the year by Nashville artists.Typically, that annual CMN feature makes reference to "country" recordings, but it should be noted that many Canadian songwriters have also contributed to the Americal "Bluegrass" scene.In order to provide an accurate overview of the depth of Canadian songwriter's involvement in the American bluegrass recording scene, CMN has compiled this extensive listing of songwriter's credits in Bluegrass music.

Unlike the 'country' side of things where numerous songs written by Canadian songwriters are 'charted' on the Billboard Country charts, seldom does a Canadian bluegrass songwriter get to see his/her song reach the 'charts' in the USA. Bluegrass Unlimited the bible of bluegrass music for the past four decades publishes a monthly Top 30 'National Bluegrass Survey' hit chart, the only one of its kind, and seldom does a song written by a Canadian songwriter find its way to that chart ... however, there have been exceptions.

Fred Eaglesmith

FRED EAGLESMITH, the lone Canadian songwriter to score a #1 hit on Bluegrass Unlimited Hit Charts with his "30 Years of Farming" song recorded by James King

Likely the only Canadian-written song ever to top Bluegrass Umlimited hit chart came in modern time when James King scored with the #1 hit 30 Years Of Farming, a tune penned by Fred Eaglesmith (b. Hamilton, Ontario). Just recently there was a surprise entry on that chart when the bluegrass group The Circuit Riders made it on to the B.U. charts with a bluegrass version of the Neil Young penned song Powderfinger.

Gordon Lightfoot

GORDON LIGHTFOOT, the most popular Canadian songwriter with American recording artists.

While Canadian songwriter action on the U.S. bluegrass charts is somewhat of a rarity, it is not because of a lack of songs recorded, as is attested to in the followin list.

It is not surprising to find the songs of Gordon Lightfoot (b. Orillia, Ontario) being the most prominent of this list. Quite early in his career, Lightfoot's songs were covered by bluegrass artisys like Mac Wiseman, and Tony Rice who recorded entire albums of Gordon Lightfoot songs. (See CMT June 2009 for special feature on "The songs of Gordon Lightfoot"). At latest count, there have been some 75 cuts by U.S. bluegrass artists of a Gordon Lightfoot song.

Another song that has frequently been recorded by U.S. Bluegrass artists is the Don Devaney (b. Halifax, N.S.) tune, "Listening To The Rain", which at last count had been covered nine times.

Adam Mitchell's (Ontario) popular tune "Out Among The Stars", noted best for versions by country artists Merle Haggard, Joe Sun, Waylon Jennings, etc. has been cut by some seven different bluegrass bands, including the legendary Seldom Scene.

There are many oddities among this listing.
Canadian songwriter Paul Anka (b. Ottawa, Ontario), noted more for his Pop songs, had his Buddy Holly popularized nugget "It Doesn't Matter Any More" recorded by a variety of U.S. Bluegrass bands and Leonard Cohen (b. Montreal, QC), also better known for his Pop songs, had his tune "Tonight Will Be Fine" recorded by the fabled duo Flatt & Scruggs.

Flatt & Scruggs also scored a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Country charts with the bluegrass-flavoured song"Just Ain't", a tune co-written by Canadian husband/wife team of Ginger & Hal Willis (b. Rouyn, QC). Folk/Rocker Robbie Robertson (b. Brantford, ON) of The Band fame has also seen several of his songs cut by U.S. Bluegrass artists.

One of the latest cuts by a U.S. Bluegrass artist of a Canadian-penned song comes from award-winnung musician Randy Kohrs who has recorded the song "Quicksand", written by Codie Prevost (b. Rose Valley, SK). Kohrs has entitled his latest album with Prevost's song.

(The following notes added by BMAC staff writer. Information supplied by Larry Delaney).

((This is a dynamic project.))

Since the original article was published in Nov 2009, several more Canadian songwriters have been successful in having their tunes recorded by U.S. Bluegrass bands.

Mike O'Reilly (b. Ottawa, ON) has had his song "Court Of Love" recorded by U.S. bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent. This will bring the number of O'Reilly's songs recorded by U.S. Bluegrass bands to eight, placing him in the top echelon of Canadian songwriters in this list.

Hod Pharis (b. Calgary, AB) has had his song "I Heard The Bluebirds Sing" recorded by Dirt Road Sweethearts.